Chapter 2: Peter restored, Judas ruined, and a decision reached
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 ‘Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.’
18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 ‘For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 ‘Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.’
23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’ 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
From denials to decision—Peter’s progress
Mark’s last recorded comment on Peter is that he broke down and wept.1 Earlier, Peter rashly promised Jesus never to desert Him. Jesus warned him that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice. Yet Peter boasted, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You’.2 His triple denial followed.3
Facing cruel and unjust treatment on His way to die on the cross, Jesus ‘turned and looked at Peter’.4 Peter was broken. Later, he inspected Jesus’ empty tomb, and met His risen Lord.5 He then spent time with Jesus and saw Him ascend to Heaven.6
Much in the first part of the book of Acts shows how God the Holy Spirit transforms and strengthens Peter.7
We too can stray from God. But He always offers a way back. Peter himself reminds us that Jesus died to ‘bring us to God’.8 He forgives, cleanses from sin, and indwells by His Spirit all who confess and forsake sin, and trust Christ alone. He saves us from sin’s penalty and power. Peter, now restored and an apostle,9
begins to show real leadership qualities. He tells about a hundred and twenty Christians what the Holy Spirit predicted about Judas in God’s word, through King David.10 God blesses repentant failures like Peter and uses them in His service. That comforts every Christian!
Peter now deals with the leadership gap caused by Judas’ suicide after betraying Jesus.
How and why did Judas die?
On that dark betrayal night Judas had identified God’s Son to the bloodthirsty, arresting mob, by greeting Him with a kiss.11 The mob was manipulated by cynical Jewish religious leaders and took Jesus by night because the ordinary people would have stopped them in daylight. Then Jesus was insulted, abused, blasphemed, beaten, unjustly tried, wrongly convicted, flogged and crucified.12 The Jewish leaders had paid Judas—the apostles’ treasurer and a thief—thirty silver pieces to betray Christ. Full of remorse because of his sad and lost condition, but never truly repentant for his sins,13 the sad traitor returned his money. Refusing to accept back this blood money, the religious leaders bought a field with it, calling it ‘Field of Blood’.14 Guilt ridden, Judas hanged himself. And ‘falling headlong’ his intestines burst open.15 Perhaps his corpse fell from a tree where he hanged himself onto rocks below? Or maybe his body was ripped open by hitting a tree branch in his rapid descent? The death of the unrepentant betrayer, ‘doomed to destruction’,16 fulfilled Scripture. Compare the blessing of Peter’s restoration with the misery of Judas’ suicide and eternal judgement. Real repentance and personal faith in Christ always precede forgiveness and restoration.17
Finding a replacement
Peter quotes David from the Psalms,18 and urges his colleagues to choose an apostle to fill the gap left by Judas.19 The archpersecutor of Christians, Saul, will soon be converted to Christ and later become the apostle Paul: but the apostles can now predict neither Saul’s conversion nor God’s choosing him as the apostle to succeed Judas.20
‘Apostle’ means ‘sent one’. In a general sense each Christian is a ‘sent one’, sent by God to help and bless others and share Jesus Christ’s good news with them. But the Bible reveals twelve historic apostles (thirteen, after Paul is added to Matthias).
‘Historic’, means each apostle is a one-off, foundational apostle with a unique once-for-all God-given task. The New Testament was written through the authority and influence God gave them. Faultlessly inspired by the Holy Spirit the New Testament was added to the Old Testament to complete the Bible as God’s written word.21
Peter now gives three qualifications of God’s historic apostles.
First, they accompanied the other apostles throughout Jesus’ time with them on earth. That started when John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by baptising people who saw their need to repent. Second, they had met Jesus after His resurrection as the risen Lord. Third, they witnessed Christ’s ascension into Heaven. God marks out these apostles—and some of their close associates—by enabling them to perform specific miraculous signs and wonders. These show the apostles are God’s chosen team through whom He reveals His word and His gospel in the New Testament. Paul says these signs are ‘the signs of an apostle—signs, and wonders and mighty deeds’. God is saying, ‘These men teach my unique message. Listen to them!’
Guidance, unity and how to make a difficult decision together
The eleven apostles now work together in their decisionmaking. These like-minded believers are fully committed to Christ personally, believe the Bible, pray together, and value each other’s fellowship. Yet they may validly have differing views on who should succeed Judas, or even if now is the time to choose a successor.
They commit all this in prayer to God, trusting Him for His answer. This cements their unity together. Unable to choose whether Barsabas or Matthias is the successful candidate, they draw lots to decide.22 Drawing lots is an impartial way to reach a difficult decision, rather like throwing a dice. Matthias is chosen. No unpleasant disunity follows. They all regard the decision as God’s.23
When God is put first, difficult joint decisions can be reached despite differences of opinion. Christian oneness depends on each individual believer trusting and following Jesus closely through His word under the Holy Spirit’s influence. 1 John 1:7 assures Christians that if together ‘we walk in the light, as He [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin’. Here the apostles together identify the issues clearly, pray together about them, think objectively, trust God to guide and overrule, and stand united behind their decision.
You, too, can know God’s guidance in your life and make right choices if you stay close to the Guide, the Lord Jesus,24 and follow the teaching of His word, the Bible.
Questions on Chapter 2
Peter restored, Judas ruined, and a decision reached—Acts 1:15–26
A. Trace Peter’s downfall and restoration before he starts serving Christ in Acts 1:15, by using the verses quoted below. What causes his restoration?
Acts 1:15–22, Mark 14:66–72, 14:27–31, Luke 22:54–62, Luke 24:12, 33–36, John 20:19–20, 26, John 21:1–23, Acts 1:9–11, Luke 24:50–53, Mark 16:19
B. What lessons and warnings are there in this passage as you consider Judas? Compare Judas with Peter.
Acts 1:15–20, Matthew 26:47–56, John 18:1–14, Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3–8, John 12:4–6
C. What qualifications does Peter summarise in Acts 1:21–22 as being necessary for the apostles to bear in mind in appointing a new apostle? How would those qualifications help Judas’ successor in his role as an apostle? Which of those three conditions do you think is most important and why?
Mark 1:16–20, Acts 1:10–11, 15–20, Luke 24:12, 33, 36, 50–53, John 20:19–20, 26, John 21:1–23
- Mark 14:72 ↩
- Mark 14:27-31 ↩
- Mark 14:66-72 ↩
- Luke 22:60-66 ↩
- Luke 24:12, Luke 24:33-36; John 20:19–20, 26; John 21:1–23 ↩
- Acts 1:9–11, Luke 24:50–53, Mark 16:19 ↩
- Acts 2:1-36 ↩
- 1 Peter 3:18 ↩
- See what is meant by ‘apostle’ below in Acts 1:20–22, Finding a replacement. ↩
- Psalm 109:8 ↩
- Matthew 26:47–56, John 18:1–8 ↩
- Matthew 26:47-54 ↩
- Remorse is being sorry for yourself. Repentance is being so sorry for your sin that you turn from it to Christ as Lord. ↩
- Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3–10 ↩
- Matthew 27:5, Acts 1:18 ↩
- John 17:12. NKJV translates the son of perdition where the NIV uses doomed to destruction. ↩
- Jesus’ first recorded message in Mark 1:14–15 included the words Repent and believe in the gospel. ↩
- Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8 ↩
- Only the Holy Spirit can have shown Peter that the Psalms quoted in Acts1:20 referred to Judas: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate; and let no one live in it,’ and ‘Let another take his office. ↩
- Given that God chose Paul as the replacement apostle later, you could argue that Peter was impetuous and the apostles were not careful enough in replacing Judas with Matthias at this time. ↩
- 2 Peter 1:20-21 ↩
- Collins English Dictionary defines the word lot as any object, such as a straw or piece of paper, drawn from others at random to make a selection or choice. ↩
- You could argue that a third option could have been to appoint no-one yet. The way would have then been left open for Paul. ↩
- Proverbs 3:5- 6, Romans 12: 1–2. ↩